The news that Harry Kane and other Spurs players have been ill before of the Premier League season’s last match will bring back memories of that tragic day in 2006 when a lasagne was blamed for something that wasn’t exactly its fault.
For those who may not recall, Spurs simply needed to travel to West Ham and match Arsenal’s result against Wigan in May of that year to finish fourth and secure a place in the Champions League.
Martin Jol had carefully prepared his team in the final week of the season, and with Robbie Keane back in the lineup, he was convinced the team could beat a midtable Hammers side with one eye on their FA Cup final against Liverpool the following weekend. The enormous Dutchman had no way of knowing what was going to take place.
The Spurs players checked into a hotel at 7 p.m. the night before the match, as was customary for away games in London. The five-star Marriott Hotel in Canary Wharf was chosen as the venue for the West Ham match. Arsenal had congregated right next door at the Four Seasons Hotel.
In a specially reserved space, the Spurs players were treated to a buffet dinner. The gamer tucked into lasagne and seafood dishes. Then everyone retired to their rooms to sleep and fantasize about the Champions League.
I spoke with Hans Segers, Tottenham’s goalkeeping coach at the time, a few years after that fatal day. I’ll defer to the former Tottenham goalkeeper to tell you what happened next.
“It was such an odd occurrence. I went downstairs the next morning when I awoke. He explained, “It had all been planned that the group would go for a stroll and then have the pre-match lunch.”
“Downstairs, there was a lot going on. Then I spoke with the club doctor, who informed me that we had six or seven players who had become ill throughout the course of the night. Then there was another couple that was having a horrible day that morning.
“They couldn’t go for a walk since they had to use the restroom every minute.” It was mind-blowing. I was alright, but they were scattered. It was a dreadful experience for us. The chairman entered.
We had discussions about postponing the game. Is it possible to reschedule the game? We couldn’t since the opposing team would have gotten the three points. Is it possible to postpone it for a few hours? We couldn’t because of police regulations. The maximum time limit was one hour.
“Martin then determined that we needed to keep up with our typical pre-match preparation and get at the stadium on time.” We wanted to maintain things as normal as possible and see how things proceeded. To be ready, we had to call up a lot of reserve players. It was an odd circumstance. The athletes were unable to move. They were sick before the game in the tunnel. Only a few were safe to play.”
If Jol hadn’t already been unwell, the list of afflicted players would have made him sick. Robbie Keane, Michael Carrick, and Michael Dawson were among the first to be hit. Dawson and Carrick, in especially, were in excruciating pain.
Edgar Davids, Teemu Tainio, and Aaron Lennon joined the list of casualties as the morning progressed. This wasn’t a minor illness. The players were diarrhoeic and vomiting profusely. Davids, Tainio, Keane, Dawson, Carrick, Lennon, Cerny, Davenport, Barnard, and Lee were among the names on the affected list by mid-morning.
West Ham, for one, was eager to assist in any way they could. They were willing to postpone the game as long as it was played after the FA Cup final, but as Segers stated, the best they could expect was an hour’s delay in kick-off, which would have made little difference to the players’ health.
“I can sum up the players who were not unwell,” Jol said later. Paul Robinson, Stephen Kelly, Anthony Gardner, and Jermain Defoe were the only ones who weren’t unwell. As a result, we had to call in several backup players.”
Spurs gave it they’re all on the day but were defeated 2-1 by West Ham, despite Teddy Sheringham, a former Spurs player, missing a penalty for the visitors. In the midst of it all, some knucklehead was strewn toilet paper on the wall behind the Spurs bench.
“We walked out for the warm-up and our fans were fantastic, and that made the lads feel a little bit stronger,” Jol remarked after the game. “But if you’ve got food illness, you need drinks and food – a couple of the men hadn’t eaten since Saturday.”
“It was an unusual situation.” Everyone said in the team meeting, “Gaffer, we want to go over there and play,” and that they would try the warm-up, and if it went well, they would play.
“They returned to the dressing room after that, and we decided to play.” It was disheartening in the end, but I’m still proud of them because there were heroes out there.
“If you saw Dawson, I can tell you he was terribly unwell, but he still played 90 minutes and gave everything.” Michael Carrick was in the same boat, but he couldn’t keep going. It wasn’t our best performance, but given the circumstances, we gave it our all.”
Spurs chairman Daniel Levy was incensed, and he addressed an open letter of complaint to Premier League chairman Dave Richards. He also indicated that the majority of Premier League clubs were in favor of the game being replayed, which was also requested in writing. Sepp Blatter, the then-president of FIFA, endorsed the proposal.
The request for a replay was denied by the Premier League. The occurrences at the hotel were still being investigated by police and trading standards, and test results were still pending. When the results were ultimately released, the conspiracy suspicions were put to rest, and the lasagna was cleared.
The outbreak was caused by one of the players carrying the Novo virus and spreading it throughout the group. Even now, the unfortunate lasagne’s name is dragged through the mud without any wrongdoing on its part.
Today, as Spurs prepare to travel to Norwich this weekend, with a stomach bug had spread among the squad in the last week and a half, you can’t help but remember that day 16 years ago.
Despite a fever and stomach difficulties, Hugo Lloris played the whole 90 minutes against Burnley on Sunday. Dejan Kulusevski, Pierluigi Gollini, and Harry Winks were also infected, and Emerson Royal had to miss a couple of days before returning to training at Hotspur Way earlier this week due to illness.
Kane then canceled his presence at the Museum of London’s new exhibit honoring his career on Friday due to illness.
“If you recall, we had four incidents of gastrointestinal problems in the last game against Burnley. “I have to be honest, we had a few cases concerning this week, but we overcome this difficulty,” Antonio Conte revealed.
“Also, some members of the crew were not feeling well one day.” I’m not sure why, but we were in this circumstance last week and again this week. At the moment, this illness is the least of our concerns because we are on the verge of achieving a major milestone for the club, our supporters, and our players. We’re completely focused on the game, and the players’ availability is the same as it was against Burnley.”
He stated that Kane will be fine: “Yeah for sure.” Also, we had Deki (Kulusevski) with this condition in the last game – he didn’t train with us on Saturday but was ready to play on Sunday. Harry kane is certain that he does not want to miss this type of game. This game has a lot of significance for everyone involved.
“The virus is only a nuisance for one or two days, and then you’re fine.” Also, the medical section tries to help with vitamins. We are confronted with this difficulty at the time, but it is not a problem in my opinion. We’re ready to fight and strive to win on Sunday.”
Conte chuckled and waved away the ‘Lasagnegate’ event in 2006.
“I’m not interested in hearing about this! It isn’t a happy ending. I’m not interested in learning more about this story or delving deeper into it!” he stated. “We’re in a good spot this week, and the team worked hard this week, and we prepared well.”
“For this last game, we need to be focused and concentrated 100 percent because, as you know, there are no easy games in England.” I recall having a lucky last-game circumstance and an awful situation throughout my playing career.”
Tottenham Hotspur will be hoping that their bad luck from 2006 has passed them by, and now it’s their turn to be lucky.
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